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Black Holes and Revelations

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Black Holes and Revelations
Four men sitting in a table at the Grand Canyon with horses on the table and the earth in the background
Cover art by Storm Thorgerson
Studio album by
Released3 July 2006 (2006-07-03)
RecordedAugust – December 2005
Studio
Genre
Length45:28
Label
Producer
Muse chronology
Absolution
(2003)
Black Holes and Revelations
(2006)
HAARP
(2008)
Singles from Black Holes and Revelations
  1. "Supermassive Black Hole"
    Released: 19 June 2006[1]
  2. "Starlight"
    Released: 4 September 2006
  3. "Knights of Cydonia"
    Released: 27 November 2006[2]
  4. "Invincible"
    Released: 9 April 2007
  5. "Map of the Problematique"
    Released: 18 June 2007[3]

Black Holes and Revelations is the fourth studio album by English rock band Muse. It was released on 3 July 2006 through the band's own Helium-3 imprint as well as Warner Bros. Records. Recording was done in a four-month span and was split between New York and France. It also marked the first time the band took a more active role in production. Black Holes and Revelations saw a change in style from Muse's previous albums, and the band cited influences that included Depeche Mode, Millionaire, Lightning Bolt, Sly and the Family Stone, and music from southern Italy.[4] Like their two previous albums, it features political and dystopian undertones, with lyrics covering topics such as political corruption, alien invasion, revolution, and New World Order conspiracies, as well as more conventional love songs.

Black Holes and Revelations received positive reviews from critics and appeared on many year-end lists. It received a Mercury Prize nomination and later appeared in the 2007 version of 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die. The album entered the charts at number one in five countries, including the United Kingdom, and in the top 10 in several other countries. It was later certified triple platinum in the UK and platinum in the US. Singles "Supermassive Black Hole" and "Knights of Cydonia" were both UK top-10 hits, while "Starlight", "Map of the Problematique", and "Invincible" all charted within the top 25.

Recording[edit]

Muse's third album, Absolution, brought them mainstream exposure in the United States.[5] Muse began writing and rehearsing for their next album at Studio Miraval, an old château in France.[6][4] Producer Rich Costey, who had produced Absolution, joined them two weeks later.[6]

Songwriter Matt Bellamy said the band wanted to be free from distractions so that they could "concentrate, spend time and be surrounded by different musical influences".[4] However, progress was slow and they had difficulty deciding which songs to work on.[4] More work was completed in New York City at Avatar Studios and Electric Lady Studios in New York, and at a studio in Italy.[6]

Bassist Chris Wolstenholme said writing and recording was more relaxed than previous albums, as the band had no deadline.[7] Costey wanted to capture Bellamy's "personality" as a guitarist, recording the sound of his fingers and plectrum on the strings.[6] It was also the first time Muse learned about studio technology, having previously left its use to engineers.[7]

With "Take a Bow", the band wanted to blend classical, electronic and rock music; it opens with string arpeggios inspired by Philip Glass, backed by a Moog synthesizer.[6] The "Map of the Problematique" riff was written on keyboard; at Costey's encouragement, Bellamy recreated it on guitar by splitting the guitar into three signals, which were processed with pitch shifters and synthesisers.[6] "Assassin", influenced by the punk band Lightning Bolt, began as a long progressive rock song with a "huge" piano break before Muse trimmed it to a shorter track.[6]

"Soldier's Poem" was "unlike anything [Muse had] ever done before".[8] It was written for Absolution, but was rewritten for Black Holes, with new lyrics and a new arrangement inspired by "Can't Help Falling in Love" by Elvis Presley.[6] Drummer Dominic Howard said the band had planned to record it with a "massive, epic" approach, but decided to use a small studio with vintage equipment and few microphones.[8] Howard described it as a "real highlight", with "some of the most amazing vocals I've ever heard Matt do".[8]

"Knights of Cydonia" was inspired by surf rock and the 1962 single "Telstar" by the Tornados, which featured Bellamy's father George Bellamy.[6] Bellamy said that the song title "acknowledged that this is a bit funny, particularly when we are pushing the epic side of the band to almost comical levels ... There's a lot of freedom in being able to laugh at yourself."[9]

Themes[edit]

Black Holes and Revelations has been described as featuring progressive rock[10] and space rock,[11] and was said by some reviewers to carry a political message.[12] The album begins with the track "Take a Bow", which is an "attack on an all but unnamed political leader", incorporating lyrics such as "Corrupt, you corrupt and bring corruption to all that you touch".[12] These themes are carried through the album in the tracks "Exo-Politics" and "Assassin".[12]

The album touches on controversial subject matters, such as "The New World Order conspiracy, unjustifiable war, abusive power, conspiratorial manipulation and populist revolt,"[13] and is influenced by the conspiracy theories that the band are interested in.[8] Bellamy said he finds "the unknown in general a stimulating area for the imagination",[13] and this interest is reflected throughout the album, which features rebellious paranoia (particularly during "Assassin").[12] The album also includes more emotional themes, including regret, ambition,[12] and love.[14]

The title, taken from lyrics in "Starlight", is explained by Bellamy in his September 2006 interview for Q magazine: "Black holes and revelations – they're the two areas of songwriting for me that make up the majority of this album. A revelation about yourself, something personal, something genuine of an everyday nature that maybe people can relate to. Then the black holes are these songs that are from the more ... unknown regions of the imagination."[15]

Artwork[edit]

The sleeve's designer Storm Thorgerson said: "This design was executed on location in Bardenas... The central motif came from 'galloping' horses ('Knights of Cydonia', 'Invincible') and from the biblical allusion to horsemen, namely the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, now represented in contemporary mode."[16]

Release[edit]

The album was released on 3 July 2006 in the UK, followed by releases in the US, Australia, Taiwan and Japan. The album was also available as a limited edition CD/DVD combination, that featured videos and live renditions of the band playing "Supermassive Black Hole", "Knights of Cydonia" and "Starlight". In addition, the album was re-released in the US on vinyl LP on 18 August 2009. The album was certified double platinum in the UK on 22 December 2006[17] and triple platinum on 6 December 2010. Singles were released in both the UK and the US, though they were released in different orders in each country. All singles excepting "Map of the Problematique" were available on vinyl LP, CD, DVD (containing the music video for the single) and as a download.

In the UK, the first single from the album was "Supermassive Black Hole", released on 12 June 2006. The single reached number four on the UK Singles Chart, making it the highest charting single in the UK for the band to date. The single was followed by "Starlight", "Knights of Cydonia", "Invincible" and "Map of the Problematique"; "Knights of Cydonia" was the only one to reach the top ten. The album stayed at number one for two weeks on the UK Albums Chart, producing Muse's largest sales up to that point.[citation needed]

The first single released in the US was "Knights of Cydonia", on 13 June 2006, which peaked at number 10 on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart, and was followed by "Starlight" and "Supermassive Black Hole". "Starlight" was their most popular single in the US at that point, reaching number two on the Modern Rock Tracks chart.[18] The album became Muse's first top ten entry in the US, debuting at number nine on the Billboard 200.

Reception[edit]

Critical[edit]

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
SourceRating
Metacritic75/100[19]
Review scores
SourceRating
AllMusic4.5/5 stars[20]
Blender4/5 stars[21]
Entertainment WeeklyB+[22]
The Guardian4/5 stars[23]
Los Angeles Times3/4 stars[24]
NME9/10[25]
Pitchfork4.2/10[26]
Q5/5 stars[27]
Rolling Stone3.5/5 stars[28]
Spin2/5 stars[29]

Black Holes and Revelations was met with positive reviews from critics. Metacritic, which assigns a normalised rating based on a range of reviews from mainstream critics, aggregated the album's average review score to 75 out of 100, based on 32 reviews.[19] The album received top ratings from Observer Music Monthly,[30] Q,[27] E! Online,[31] and Alternative Press.[32] Planet Sound named Black Holes and Revelations their "Album of the Year", and the album was placed third in the NME's "Albums of the Year" list.[33] as well as being named Q's second-best album of the year.[34] The album also received a Mercury Prize nomination, and was featured in the updated 2007 version of the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die. The album was named as one of Classic Rock's ten essential progressive rock albums of the decade.[10]

In contrast, several critics called the album "overblown", including RTÉ's Bill Lehane,[35] the NME's Anthony Thornton,[25] and Rolling Stone's Christian Hoard.[28] Hoard went on to describe "Knights of Cydonia" and "City of Delusion" as "ridiculous", but concluded that it was "surprising" that the album worked.[28] The A.V. Club's Noel Murray, on the other hand, gave the band credit for reworking themselves, but called the album a "nightmare" and gave it a D+.[36] The album also garnered some crossover appeal, with Oakland hip hop group Zion I releasing a notable remix of "Knights of Cydonia" in 2008.[37]

Accolades[edit]

Black Holes and Revelations was placed at number 34 in a public vote conducted by Q for "The Best British Albums of all time" in February 2008. The album also spawned "Supermassive Black Hole", Muse's most successful single in the UK to date, hitting number four on the charts. In October 2011, NME placed it at number 74 on its list "150 Best Tracks of the Past 15 Years".[38] It was nominated for the Kerrang! Award for Best Single. The album was ranked at 14th in the RadioX UK magazine best albums of 2006.[39] The album was ranked at number three on NME's list of the albums of the year in 2006.[40] On 26 January 2008, "Knights of Cydonia" was announced as the number-one song on Australia's 2007 Triple J Hottest 100. The song was also ranked No. 18 in the Triple J Hottest 100 of All Time, 2009. It was also ranked No. 53 on Rhapsody's list of the Top 100 Tracks of the Decade.[41] In October 2011, NME placed it at number 44 on its list "150 Best Tracks of the Past 15 Years".[42]

Commercial[edit]

The album sold 115,144 copies in its first week in the UK,[43] which was more than the first week sales of Muse's previous album Absolution. It was certified triple platinum by the BPI,[17] and has sold over one million copies in the UK as of 2018.[44]

Five singles were released in the UK, of which three were released in the US. A world tour followed the release of the album that included dates in the UK, the US, Canada, Australia and most of Europe and Asia.[45]

Tour[edit]

See caption.
Acrobats suspended from giant white balloons float above the audience in the first, sellout night of Muse's Wembley gigs

In July 2006, the band announced they would embark on their "biggest ever tour" in support of the album.[46] The first shows included the Leeds and Reading Carling Weekend festivals, followed by a tour that visited most of the world's major continents.[46] The tour saw them travelling around most of the world,[45] and its shows became noted for their increasing usage of special effects. Some dates that were booked to play in support of My Chemical Romance in the US were cancelled after members of both bands were affected by food poisoning.[47] The US stretch of the tour included dates at Madison Square Garden and a headlining slot at Lollapalooza.

Between the European arena and festival/stadium tours, the band embarked on a tour to Australia and the Far East. The band were second on the bill at the 2007 Big Day Out Festival, behind headliners Tool. They also played sideshows in Sydney and Melbourne before embarking on concerts in South East Asia. That tour led to the band's biggest tour of Japan and a debut show in South Korea. The band then moved to America, playing their biggest North American headline concerts at the time at the Inglewood Forum and the Palacio de los Deportes arena in Mexico City.

The biggest concert of the tour was the two nights they played at the new Wembley Stadium on 16 and 17 June 2007, which incorporated much more extensive special effects than other concerts. Footage of the latter concert was released on DVD, while a live CD album contained a selection of recorded tracks from the two nights. Both discs were released as a joint package under the title HAARP. After Wembley, the tour continued with Muse playing many gigs on European festival circuits, including headline appearances at Rock Werchter and the Benicàssim Festival. The tour then progressed to Muse's biggest North American tour at that point, including appearances at New York City's Madison Square Garden, Morrison's Red Rocks Amphitheatre and a headline appearance at Lollapalooza 2007. The band then did a tour of Eastern Europe in October before heading for an arena tour of Australia in November, finally ending at the KROQ Almost Acoustic Christmas. The following year saw Muse have a much more relaxed schedule, but still saw them play their first gigs in Dubai and South Africa at festivals, before making their gig debuts in South America on a three-week arena tour.

Track listing[edit]

All tracks are written by Matt Bellamy.

Black Holes and Revelations – Standard edition
No.TitleLength
1."Take a Bow"4:35
2."Starlight"3:59
3."Supermassive Black Hole"3:29
4."Map of the Problematique"4:18
5."Soldier's Poem"2:03
6."Invincible"5:00
7."Assassin"3:31
8."Exo-Politics"3:53
9."City of Delusion"4:48
10."Hoodoo"3:43
11."Knights of Cydonia"6:06
Total length:45:28
Black Holes and Revelations – Japanese edition / Digital edition
No.TitleLength
12."Glorious"4:40
Total length:50:08
Black Holes and Revelations – Limited edition (DVD)
No.TitleLength
1."Supermassive Black Hole" (video) 
2."Starlight" (video) 
3."Knights of Cydonia" (video) 
4."Supermassive Black Hole" (Live from Paris) 
5."Starlight" (Live from Copenhagen at the MTV Awards) 
6."Knights of Cydonia" (Live from London) 
  • A longer version of "Assassin", dubbed the "Grand Omega Bosses Version" was also released on the "Knights of Cydonia" vinyl single.

Personnel[edit]

Muse

  • Matthew Bellamy – lead vocals, lead and rhythm guitars, piano, synthesizers, production
  • Christopher Wolstenholme – bass, backing vocals, double bass on "Soldier's Poem", additional synthesizers on "Map of the Problematique" and "Hoodoo", production
  • Dominic Howard – drums, percussion, brief vocals and electronic drums on "Supermassive Black Hole", Buchla 200e on "Take a Bow", production

Additional personnel

  • Edoardo de Angelis – first violin on "Take a Bow", "City of Delusion", "Hoodoo" and "Knights of Cydonia"
  • Around Art – strings on "Take a Bow", "City of Delusion", "Hoodoo" and "Knights of Cydonia"
  • Marco Brioschi – trumpet on "City of Delusion" and "Knights of Cydonia"
  • Tommaso Colliva – engineer
  • Myriam Correge – assistant engineer
  • Rich Costey – production
  • Max Dingle – mixing assistant
  • Tom Kirk – antique items crushed on "Exo-Politics"
  • Roger Lian – mastering assistant
  • Vlado Meller – mastering
  • Mauro Paganistring arrangements, string conductor
  • Ross Petersen – assistant engineer
  • Audrey Riley – string arrangements, string conductor
  • Mark Rinaldi – mixing assistant
  • Ryan Simms – assistant engineer
  • Derrick Santini – photography
  • Storm Thorgerson – cover photo
  • Rupert Truman – cover photo
  • Howie Weinberg – mastering

Charts[edit]

Certifications[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/sales
Australia (ARIA)[75] Platinum 70,000^
Belgium (BEA)[76] Gold 15,000*
Canada (Music Canada)[77] Platinum 100,000^
Finland (Musiikkituottajat)[78] Gold 15,000[78]
France (SNEP)[79] 3× Platinum 300,000*
Germany (BVMI)[80] Gold 100,000^
Ireland (IRMA)[81] Platinum 15,000^
Japan (RIAJ)[82] Gold 100,000^
New Zealand (RMNZ)[83] Gold 7,500^
Norway (IFPI Norway)[84] Gold 20,000*
Switzerland (IFPI Switzerland)[85] Platinum 30,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[86] 3× Platinum 1,119,574[44]
United States (RIAA)[87] Platinum 1,000,000^
Summaries
Europe (IFPI)[88] 2× Platinum 2,000,000*

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone

Single releases[edit]

Title UK Singles
Chart
Billboard Modern
Rock Tracks
"Supermassive Black Hole" 4 6
"Starlight" 13 2
"Knights of Cydonia" 10 10
"Invincible" 21
"Map of the Problematique" 18

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External links[edit]